Now that I didn't want to die, I was scared that they were going to kill me. The cops in the San Fernando Valley had abused me so much as a teenager that I finally filed a police harassment lawsuit in the mid-'80s. It only made them hate me more. And now they had their guns drawn and plenty of reasons to use them.
I kept my hands visible as I opened the car door slowly, careful not to spook them. I got out of the car, trying to act cool. Everything went crazy after that. The sirens ripped through my skull. The drug dog leaped toward me, barking even louder. I rested my hands on the back of my head to show I was cooperating and backed up toward them, trying not to imagine being shot in the back. The police were all over me. They rushed up, shouting orders, their guns at close range.
The undercover officer whose van I'd ambushed when I was out of my mind on drugs came up and put his gun to my head.
"I've got you now, motherf***er," he said.
I wasn't exactly in a position to argue.
They grabbed me, got me onto the ground, and held me there. They patted me down and let the dog go over me. I was wearing baggy Cross Colours clothes, which young black men were really into at the time, and they checked all of the pockets for weapons and drugs. When they cuffed my arms behind my back, I knew it was all over. As they put me in the back of a squad car, I actually felt a sense of relief. I hated my old way of living so much that I had been ready to die. And now I had a chance at something better, if I could only hold it together this time.